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Black Friday Protest Pauses Shopping At Several St. Louis Malls

St. Louis Galleria die-in 11-28-14. Part of the Black Fri
Emanuele Berry/St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at midnight

Shoppers who wanted to find some deals at the St. Louis Galleria found themselves out of luck Friday, as the mall temporarily closed its doors following a peaceful protest over the grand jury's decision to not indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

About 200 protesters marched, sang, and chanted for nearly two hours. Police stood back and allowed the protests to happen. There were no arrests reported. A large number of stores locked their doors during the demonstration.

At one point demonstrators staged a “die in,” where they dropped to the ground and lay in place for four and half minutes, in remembrance of Michael Brown. 

Today’s protest was part of a nationwide call by activists to not shop at retails stores. Protesters chanted “not one dime” and “stop shopping, join the movement, ” as they marched. On social media, many referred to the call to action as Brown Friday. Protesters also disrupted shopping at West County and Chesterfield malls.

Later in the evening protesters tweeted about walking through the Central West End singing carols, with words changed. And at the Ferguson Police department, 15 people were arrested, according to a tweet from the County Police Department.

Activist Rasheen Aldridge says today’s demonstrations are another way for activists to be heard.

“Brown Friday is kind of honoring Michael Brown and the whole movement in general and then not going out and shopping. Instead of Black Friday, Brown Friday,” he said. “Not going out and shopping at these corporations, these big stores. And like I said, to continue to hit them where it hurts, in their pockets this time.”

Kris Hendrix, the mother of three black boys said today’s protest was about reminding people not to get comfortable.

“Black Friday and really Thanksgiving is the beginning of over consumption in America,” she said. “So they release the indictment right before Thanksgiving and black Friday because they thought that people were going to return to their lives as usual and go back to spending out of control. I think it’s important to come out and represent now because it’s telling people ‘Why are you going back to your life as normal? You want to continue with your life as normal, as though there isn’t genocide of young black and brown people in this country,” she said.   

Lou Downey, at one point, addressed protesters and the shoppers to explain why it was important to disturb Black Friday shopping.

“ 'People say, well aren’t you  disrupting an important tradition’, yeah the tradition of killing black and brown men that’s  been going on and on and on …” he said.  “That’s the tradition we are disrupting. We are calling on people to not shop but do something more meaningful today. Raise your voice for people all around the world, all over the county and say as long as  business as usual in America is to kill and criminalize brown and black men, that business as usual needs to be disrupted.”

Ida Alul came to the mall to shop. She watched the demonstration from afar.  She says the protest made her stop for a moment and think about what’s going on in Ferguson.

“I support what they are trying to do to bring attention to what’s happening in Ferguson,” she said. “I also wonder if it will make people stop what they are doing, we’re obviously still here.”

Most shoppers walked around protestors or watched as they marched by. The crowd of shoppers did dissipate as the demonstration progressed and the Galleria temporarily closed.

After demonstration at the Galleria, protests moved on to to West County Center in Des Peres. 

Scattered protests also popped up at big retailers across St. Louis. Photos on Twitter showed a sit-in at the Kirkwood Commons Target. There were additional protests led by Hands Up United and Show-Me 15 (an organization that supports a higher minimum wage) at the Walmart in the same shopping complex. 

And at the Wal-Mart in Bridgeton, activists Zaki Baruti and Anthony Shahid marched with a small group chanting, "Hands up, don't shop!" and "If we don't get it, shut it down."

Erin Coleman, a Webster University student who grew up in Maryland Heights, said she was taking part in the protest to make sure that people understood the link between classism and racism.

"I know that there are people fighting their own struggle, but I think it’s better to have one struggle and to unite everyone that’s oppressed," she said. "Linking classism to racism and linking Show-Me 15 to Ferguson we’ll gain more support for both movements."

Many of the leaders of the local push for a $15-per-hour minimum wage have been involved in the protests in Ferguson.

Legal observers say two people were arrested inside the Walmart. Bridgeton police would not confirm if anyone was in custody.

Follow Emanuele Berry on Twitter: @emanuelewithane

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.